Everyone at some point in his or her life will lose a friend through death. Recovery can be emotionally difficult and can take time. To help understand the impact a loss of a friend can have on someone’s overall life and how someone can recover from a loss of a friend, I have interviewed psychologist Dr. Melissa Flint.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I received both my masters and doctoral degrees in Clinical Psychology from Argosy University / Phoenix. My original area of interest was working with older adults, particularly those suffering with dementia, which is reflected in my dissertation work entitled “Efficacy of Inpatient Geropsychiatric Treatment in Moderate to Severe Dementia”. Since that time, my area of focus has expanded from seniors to all clients who are bereaved. I currently practice at the Midwestern University Clinic while teaching in the Clinical Psychology Program for the university. I also volunteer in both of my specialty areas, serving as the vice-chair for Area Agency on Aging Region One’s DOVE’S Board of Directors as well as serving in the MISS Foundation, an amazing organization serving families who have lost children.”
What type of impact can a loss of a good friend have on a person’s overall life?
“The loss of a close friend is devastating. For many, there is a belief that the death of a friend is somehow less traumatic than other deaths, which we endure. This is often not the case. For many, their friends are their support system and, in some cases, are closer to them than biological family. Keeping this fact in mind, it is not uncommon for people to feel very distressed, particularly immediately after the death. Feelings of overwhelming sadness, tearfulness and even longing for the individual who has died can be expected. Feelings of anger and guilt may surprise some, but are also very common reactions to such a loss.”
What can someone do to help her or himself recover from a loss of a good friend?
“First, I believe that the word “recover” is a misnomer. Recovery implies regaining what was lost. Nothing will ever be exactly the same as it was before; you will never have that person back. I tend to use the idea of reconciliation with my clients, assisting them to redefine their new reality rather than remaining in a constant search to replace what has been lost. Our dear friends are truly irreplaceable. I also believe that understanding the process of mourning is very important. Creating meaning out of the loss, memorializing the individual in ways, which bring meaning and honor to their life are critical steps to begin the process of reconstructing meaning after a death of any kind.”
What type of professional help is available for someone who is trying to recover from a loss of a good friend?
“As far as treatment and assistance, there is an abundance of resources that are available. One such resource is your company’s Employee Assistance Program. Many employers offer little or no cost counseling services in a time of immediate crisis to their employees at no charge. If they deem that more intensive treatment is necessary, they can then provide referrals. In addition, many counselors and psychologists have training in grief and loss. It would be important to connect with an individual with such expertise. Although a full list of resources is outside of the scope of this article, a quick web based search of social service agencies in your area should provide you with many names of individuals/ organizations who provide all types of services from support groups through more intensive mental health services. Also, leaning on your other friends in this time of loss can be of great support and assistance. “
What last advice would you like to leave for someone who is trying to recover from a loss of a good friend?
1. “Honor your feelings. Cry when you have to. Remember that the impact of this loss, the meaning of that person to you, is worthy of grieving.
2. Believe that despite the profundity of the loss, there is hope and that you have a great deal of control over how you choose to remember your precious loved one.
3. Reach out. There is no dishonor in recognizing that you are struggling and it is a sign of strength that you recognize this and ask for help when you need it.
4. Take the time you need. There are no timelines for grief, each person deserves the respect to grieve in a timeline that makes sense to them.”
Thank you Dr. Flint for doing the interview on how someone can recover from a loss of a friend. For more information on Dr. Flint’s clinical practice at Midwestern University check out the website www.mwuclinic.com.
How to Recover from a Loss of a Loved One
Surviving Through the Grief Stages